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Ethel the Blog
Observations (and occasional brash opining) on science, computers, books, music and other shiny things that catch my mind's eye. There's a home page with ostensibly more permanent stuff. This is intended to be more functional than decorative. I neither intend nor want to surf on the bleeding edge, keep it real, redefine journalism or attract nyphomaniacal groupies (well, maybe a wee bit of the latter). The occasional cheap laugh, raised eyebrow or provocation of interest are all I'll plead guilty to in the matter of intent. Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

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Friday, April 18, 2003

JESUS PLUS NOTHING
Jeffrey Sharlet, editor of
Killing the Buddha, writes of his introduction to "the Family".
Ivanwald, which sits at the end of Twenty-fourth Street North in Arlington, Virginia, is known only to its residents and to the members and friends of the organization that sponsors it, a group of believers who refer to themselves as "the Family." The Family is, in its own words, an "invisible" association, though its membership has always consisted mostly of public men. Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as "members," as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities.

The organization has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, the International Foundation. These groups are intended to draw attention away from the Family, and to prevent it from becoming, in the words of one of the Family's leaders, "a target for misunderstanding."* The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man."
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/18/2003 02:00:01 PM | link

AL-DAWA
Given the history of the neocon cadre that now rules the planet, it's not terribly surprising that
they're inviting a terrorist group that bombed the U.S. embassy (amongst other things) in Kuwait in 1983 to the conference on "governing" post-invasion Iraq. Back in the 1980s, when Oliver North et al. were running U.S. foreign policy (i.e. laundering money, trading arms for hostages, selling drugs, etc.), they even planned to convince the Kuwaitis to release the members of Al-Jawa that had been caught and jailed for the bombings.
...
As an unofficial "ambassador" selected by North and Secord, Hakim produced a remarkable nine-point plan, subsequently approved by North and Pointdexter, under which the United States would receive "one and a half" hostages (later reduced to one). Under the plan, the United States agreed not only to sell the Iranians 500 more TOWs, but Secord and Hakim promised to develop a plan to induce the Kuwaiti Government to release the Da'wa prisoners (Seventeen Kuwaiti prisoners, connected to "al-Dawa", and Iranian revolutionary group, had been convicted and imprisoned for their parts in the December 12, 1983, attacks in Kuwait on the U.S. Embassy, a U.S. civilian compound, the French Embassy, and several Kuwait I Government facilities. The plan to obtain the release of the Da'wa prisoners did not succeed, but the TOW missiles for sold for use by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Following the transfer of these TOWs, a third hostage, David Jacobsen, was released on November 2 1986, and more profit was generated for the Enterprise.
...
Although John Poindexter claims the plan was approved by Reagan, George Schultz claims otherwise.
...
Poindexter testified that the President approved the nine-point plan. But other testimony raises questions about this assertion. Regardless of what Poindexter may have told the President, Secretary Shultz that when he informed the President on December 14 1986, that the nine-point plan included a promise about the release of the Da'wa prisoners in Kuiwait, the President reacted with shock, "like he had kicked in the belly."
...
Poindexter is currently Director of the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office, one of the many Iran/Contra success stories produced by the Cabal. While Schultz is one of the few upper echelon people from the Iran/Contra days you might believe if he said the sun rises in the east, Poindexter is a convicted liar. It can be safely assumed that Poindexter, North and the rest of that pack did whatever they wanted to do and basically hid it from or lied about it to an increasingly disconnected president.
posted by Steven Baum 4/18/2003 10:38:01 AM | link

BEBOP DECONSTRUCTED
Having musical interests similar to Sam Smith (e.g. the 40 CD complete works of Duke Ellington 1924-1947 sitting on the desk here in front of me), I found his
Progressive Review item about some unusual French jazz recordings from the 1970s most interesting. The French? Jazz? Two words: Grappelli and Reinhardt.
KNOWING YOUR ANACHRONIC editor's interest in old jazz, Bill Lanouette sent me a remarkable tape copy of a disc made in the 1970s by the Anachronic Jazz Band, which featured traditional jazz reformulations of bebop tunes such as "Yardbird Suite" and "Round Midnight." Carrying this off is even harder than it sounds, and Anachronic does it magnificently. Scott described the results this way: "The idea for this French group is so logical that it is surprising that it was not done previously. The trad jazz nonet (which includes four horns and a five-piece rhythm section with sousaphone and string bass) performed the melodies and sometimes the chord structures of bop tunes to hilarious effect, making the 1940s and '50s modern tunes sound as if they were being performed in 1928. They recorded two albums for the French Open label and one for the German Calig company, playing unique renditions of such unlikely tunes as "Yardbird Suite," "Pent Up House," "Move," "Joy Spring" and even "Giant Steps." Before their eventual breakup the group (which included trumpeter Patrick Artero, trombonist Daniel Barda and Marc Richard and Andre Villeger on reeds) performed at quite a few European festivals, but unfortunately never in the United States. Their three recordings, one of which has guest appearances by singer Beryl Bryden, are collector's items."
A quick tutorial: "be-bop" was a new form of jazz precipitated by Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk etc. in the 1940s and 1950s wherein tunes featured more improvisation and a more complex rhythmic structure than before. Although this evolution of the form drove Philip Larkin crazy, most fans recognized it as a welcome step forward. The be-bop evolution should be distinguished from the later "free-form" or "improvisatory" evolution of the mid-1960s - with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman doing much of the pioneering work - which turned Wynton Marsalis and Ken Burns, amongst many others, into the spiritual heirs of Larkin. I say this while also having a copy of Wynton's 7 CD "Live at the Village Vanguard" on the desk in front of me. My Coltrane and Coleman sides are at home. Mebbe I'll start a jazz blog if and when I get tired of all this political stuff.
posted by Steven Baum 4/18/2003 09:32:44 AM | link

MORE ON THE DEAL
Jalal Ghazi provides more details about what is becoming increasingly obvious as a deal between the invaders and the invaded to end the war quickly. Why this will never be admitted to by the Cabal or written about by its loyal media sycophants is left as an exercise for the reader.
Arabic media are speculating that a "safqa" -- Arabic for a secret deal -- was arranged between the United States and the Baath regime to hand over Baghdad. Although nobody can pinpoint the exact terms, there are three clear outcomes. First, the lives of many American and British forces as well as most senior Baath officials were spared. Second, Baghdad itself did not turn into the bloodbath widely anticipated by military experts. Third, the war was shortened dramatically, saving the region -- especially Saudi Arabia -- from catastrophic consequences.

The following clues, gleaned from Arabic and U.S. media, suggest why the fall of Baghdad was premeditated.

  • None of the seven rescued POWs was hurt. On the contrary, all seven were found in good condition. All were found dressed in pajamas rather than the standard uniforms for prisoners of war, indicating that they were being treated as guests rather than as POWs. Usually, Arabs give pajamas to guests who sleep over in their houses.

    Arab reports point out that POW Jessica Lynch was similarly treated; she was kept in the cleanest room in an Iraqi hospital until she was rescued on April 2.

    In both cases, American forces were tipped off about the location of the POWs by unknown Iraqi citizens. Kuwaiti prisoners, by contrast, who were captured during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait more than 12 years ago, are only now being discovered.

    To date, none of the seven war prisoners has spoken directly to American TV reporters, unlike American soldiers injured in the fighting, who became instant media sources. We are told the seven POWs were taken to Kuwait for medical treatment and intelligence debriefing.

  • American tanks rolled into Baghdad with very little resistance while Basra, nowhere near as heavily fortified as Baghdad, sustained almost three weeks of fierce resistance.

    The fall of Baghdad was so sudden that it left many of the Arab and Muslim volunteers who went to Iraq to fight the coalition forces in total disarray. Initially given weapons and uniforms, thousands of these volunteers -- who came from Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere -- wound up having no one to tell them what to do. Al Jazeerah reports that some are now still fighting U.S. forces while others are actually attacking Iraqi civilians.

  • Baath forces refrained from destroying a single bridge in Baghdad, which could have blocked U.S. tanks access to the city, at least temporarily. Moreover, only a handful of Iraq's oil fields were set on fire, leaving the vast majority intact almost in accordance with Bush's demands.

  • None of the senior Baath officials has surrendered to date, with the exception of two high-level scientists. Instead, tens of thousands of Baath operatives managed to disappear without a sign of internal divisions. This strongly suggests that the departure of the Baath regime was ordered from the most senior levels and was highly organized. It also explains why most of the Iraqi forces, including the Republican Guards, were nowhere to be found when U.S. forces entered Baghdad.

  • Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Al-Douri, a high level Baath functionary, was quoted in both American and Arabic media as saying, "The game is over" and that he had not been in contact with Saddam Husssein for weeks. When asked why he used the word "game," the Ambassador replied, "the war is over." Meanwhile, Al-Jazeerah reported that he has been allowed to travel to Syria and that he may be asked to represent the new Iraqi government at the United Nations.

...

posted by Steven Baum 4/18/2003 09:21:28 AM | link

Thursday, April 17, 2003

WAGGING JESSICA
Rupert Murdoch's leading British propaganda rag once again attempts to smear God's chosen country. We learn of the
reality behind the dog and pony show that nearly spawned its own 24-hour TV channel.
THE rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, which inspired America during one of the most difficult periods of the war, was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses.

Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault had met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Baath leadership had fled the city.

Four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralysed and on an intravenous drip, were bound and handcuffed as American soldiers rampaged through the wards, searching for departed members of the Saddam regime.

An ambulance driver who tried to carry Private Lynch to the American forces close to the city was shot at by US troops the day before their mission. Far from winning hearts and minds, the US operation has angered and hurt doctors who risked their lives treating both Private Lynch and Iraqi victims of the war. “What the Americans say is like the story of Sinbad the Sailor — it’s a myth,” said Harith al-Houssona, who saved Private Lynch’s life after she was brought to the hospital by Iraqi military intelligence.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/17/2003 03:16:13 PM | link

BLOODY POLLYANNAS
Those wild-eyed optimists at the
Daily Reckoning are at it again. Now they're trying to tell us that home refinancing isn't an infinite source of free money.
...
As housing prices rise...housing costs as a percentage of household budgets increases. Consumers pay more to live in the same house. Worse, the lumpen homeowners believe they can "take out equity" from their own homes as if they were spending savings. Encouraged by Fed governors and mortgage hustlers, they go even deeper into debt, while the economy slumps and they risk losing their jobs.

The consumer economy depends upon the ability of consumers to spend money. With stocks no longer rising, and jobs disappearing (it takes the avg. white-collar job seeker 11 months to find new employment)...consumers have had to rely on the housing market. Home prices are still rising...and each rate cut has given them a way to 'unlock' the 'trapped equity' in their own bedrooms and kitchens.

The latest numbers show the builders hammering up new houses at a feverish pace -- new housing starts rose 8.3% in the month of March.

But new home sales are lagging behind -- meaning, that the industry will soon end up with more homes than it can sell; prices will fall. Falling home prices will mean the end of the housing boom, of course; it will also mean the end of the refinancing bubble. All of a sudden householders will go to 'unlock equity' and find the safe empty!

Meanwhile, the core rate of inflation was flat for March -- for only the 2nd time in 2 decades...and the 12th time since 1953.

Fed governors must be worried. They count on refinancings to get enough cash into the system to allow consumers to continue spending. But what can they do? Only cut rates for a 13th time...luring householders even deeper into debt...and postponing the inevitable day of reckoning....
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/17/2003 01:47:42 PM | link

THE DEAL
Walid Rabah writes of a deal between the Cabal and the commanders of the Republican Guards which, if true, saved a shitload of U.S. and Iraqi lives. He also claims a strong spook presence amongst the "human shields."
One day after the start of the war against Iraq American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared on American television screens to say something that the press interpreted as some sort of American propaganda. In reality, though, it was the basis for what was later to take place.

Rumsfeld said that there had been communications between the Americans and leaders in the Republican Guard in Iraq. He said that the details could not be disclosed now, but urged listeners to wait for coming days.

Three days later the American media played an audio tape on which recorded voices could be heard speaking in Arabic guiding American forces to important bombing targets. The voices were translated immediately in the headquarters of the American forces so that orders could be issued accordingly.

In fact, Rumsfeld was not just talking at random. There had been communications that took place in total secrecy between the leaders of the Republican Guard and the Commanders of Saddam's Fedayeen, unbeknownst to the Iraqi leader and his son who was in charge of a huge military organization that could have made life hell for the American forces had they joined the battle.

The communications grew in intensity after the Republican Guard entered its first battle against the American forces in the environs of Baghdad, and after much of its equipment was destroyed. The Americans could see that they were facing a force with high military preparedness, one that was well trained and could inflict tremendous losses on the American forces whenever they tried to enter Baghdad.

The offer proposed by the American command in Iraq to the Republican Guard and Saddam's Fedayeen was generous. The offers were run past Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who okayed them immediately. The provided for:

1. In return for not opposing American forces and for laying down their weapons, the United States will give the following:

Transportation for the Republican Guards top echelon to secure locations outside of Iraq.

Transportation of the Republican Guards leaders of the second echelon to "liberated" places of which the Anglo-American forces had control inside Iraq.

Granting to the top echelon of the Republican Guards large sums of money, with lesser sums going to the second echelon.

Granting some of the leaders of the top echelon of the Republican Guard, and to those who had not committed "war crimes" official roles in "liberated" Iraq after the end of the war.

Granting American citizenship and residency in the United States to some of the first echelon commanders and their families, depending on their wishes.

Establishing a balance between the Iraqi Opposition that will have a limited role in the administration of Iraq on the one hand, and Republican Guard commanders who did not fight the American forces, on the other.

2. As a guarantee of this (which the commanders of the Republican Guard did not completely trust), the United States disclosed some of its agents whom it had planted among the "human shields" who were guiding the American military to positions to be bombed and where President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership could be found. A brief meeting was held between one of the agents serving as a "human shield" and some members of the Republican Guard during which the latter were handed official written documents addressed to the first echelon of the Republican Guard. These reassured the Republican Guard commanders that the assurances were reliable. The documents provided for:

After the occupation of Saddam International Airport, Republican Guards of the top echelon should arrive at the airport so that they could be transported away. If that proved impossible, a place should be agreed upon where an Apache helicopter or two could land somewhere near Baghdad in order to transport them away.

Some commanders of the second echelon should secure themselves within the Iraqi Republican Palace adjacent to the Airport. American forces would fire some shells at it in order to announce that they had taken it, then American forces would transfer them to the airport.

Orders should be issued to the commanders of the Second Echelon of the Republican Guard not to resist and to lay down their weapons, together with promises of their safety, and that of their families, and they would be transported to secure locations. In turn they were to issue orders to those of lower rank in their commands not to put up resistance. The Republican Guard's first echelon used a deception to get lower ranks to accept such an order by telling them that the resistance would be carried on secretly in accordance with a plan prepared by the Iraqi leadership to protract the war and catch the American forces in a trap that had been laid for them. This trick was used on the lower ranking commanders of the Republican Guard.

First and Second echelon commanders of the Republican Guard would be given sums of money in dollars as a down payment to guarantee the implementation of the agreement.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/17/2003 11:23:40 AM | link

THE POOP ON IRAQWAR.RU
Daniel Forbes (via rc3) writes of the rise and demise of a site purporting to offer Russian intelligence overviews of the festivities during the invasion of Iraq. Was it "secret" help for the Iraqis, or just an external expression of internal power struggles within the Russian military/intelligence community?
The U.S. and British military won't have the Russian secret services to contend with in Iraq anymore, at least not on the Net. Early last week, the Russian military analysis Web site, Iraqwar.ru, discontinued its daily "Russian military intel update."

The three-week-old, daily feature - was it real-world intelligence useful to the Iraqis or merely the product of a fertile imagination? - claimed to be based on leaks from senior Russian intelligence officials.

It offered detailed predictions about coalition troop movements many hours or even days in advance. It also quoted "intercepted" U.S. radio traffic, toted casualties on both sides and - with what perhaps its raison detre, the rest conceivably nothing but necessary ballast - provided strategic advice to the Iraqi military. It was a combustionable mix that was enjoying steadily increasing traffic, applause, and scorn.

In the first two weeks of the war, as stalled coalition generals pondered different routes of attack, and the Iraqi military retained functioning command and control apparatus, a close reading yields some stark go-here, do-this advice.

The three lead items in the April 7 update, the day before the feature was killed, offered particularly unabashed intelligence, including projections about American moves later that day in Baghdad.

Carrying the title: "Aggression against Iraq," the site appeared amidst Russian government hostility to the war and Russian military sympathy for the Iraqis who used some $8 billion worth of Russian arms. Knight Ridder Newspapers military correspondent Joseph L. Galloway mentioned Iraqwar.ru in an article April 3rd that quoted two senior American officials anonymously. The first said Iraqwar.ru featured "genuine Russian intelligence reports, some of them based on intercepts of U.S. communications. . ." And the second "speculated that the Web site might be a clever attempt to pass useful information to the Iraqis by posting it publicly on the Internet."

By phone, Galloway added, "The Russians are always very careful about letting that stuff out unless there is a specific purpose…. It was not just to make the U.S. look bad. It was for someone's benefit, and it sure wasn't our's."
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/17/2003 10:45:05 AM | link

SYRIAN COUNTERSTRIKE
Via
Hesiod, we discover that Syria has cleverly introduced a U.N. resolution calling for the Middle East to be free from WOMD.
UNITED NATIONS - Syria asked the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to approve an Arab-backed resolution calling for the Middle East to be free of weapons of mass destruction.

The United States said it supports the idea of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, but accused Syria of having such weapons itself.
...

The subtext is that such a resolution would have to be signed by another Middle Eastern country currently in possession of both nuclear and chemical/biological weapons, the existence of which is a well-known "secret."
...
The Syrian resolution was aimed at Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons. Israel refuses to confirm or deny the claim and is not party to global treaties aimed at controlling the spread of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The proposed resolution calls on all countries in the Middle East to ratify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the nuclear test ban treaty, and the conventions to control chemical and biological weapons.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/17/2003 09:54:57 AM | link

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR
The Cabal has
once again reminded the media of the possible wages of disobedience.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. Marines looking for hardcore Iraqi fighters searched rooms early Tuesday in the hotel that serves as headquarters for most foreign journalists in Baghdad, apparently taking some people into custody.

The Marines had keys to the rooms, but in cases where the doors were bolted, they kicked them down, rousting journalists from their beds and pointing M-16s in their faces, footage from Associated Press Television News showed.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/16/2003 11:13:49 AM | link

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

LAW AND ORDER
As a longtime "Law and Order" devotee who remembers vividly even the Michael Moriarty days, and who remembers well the infinitely sad look on Lennie's face after he removed his hand from Claire's neck,
a Charles Pierce letter to Altercation really resonates. The mentions of Richard Thompson and T-Bone Burnett don't hurt, either.
We longtime "Law and Order" devotees - and we are Legion - never quite have gotten beyond the unconscionable dispatch of Jill Hennessy a few years back. Hennessy's Claire Kincaid, brooding Jack McCoy's lost muse, was the single sexiest character in the history of series television. Watch the reruns. Kincaid in pinstripes makes Madonna look like a mounted trout.

Anyway, Hennessy has moved on to "Crossing Jordan," a forgettable series about a Boston coroner in which she occasionally finds herself in considerably more dishabille than she ever was in the Manhattan DA's office. (Once, purely in the line of duty, Jordan was forced to go undercover as an exotic dancer, something I'm sure happens to forensic pathologists, like, every day.) Lo and behold, however, out of this trifle, the great T-Bone Burnett has fashioned a set to rival his "O, Brother" masterpiece.

It’s mostly covers and, Jesus God, some of it is stunning: Lucinda's great on the Tom Waits tune, "Hang Down Your Head"; Cassandra Wilson takes "The Wind Cries Mary" to places even Hendrix couldn't find, and there aren't many of those, and why didn't Richard Thompson do "Season of the Witch" 20 years ago?

For me, the highlights are the Holmes Brothers's tough-assed preachifying on "You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond," and Alison Krauss's exquisite reading of Steve Winwood's Blind Faith ballad, "Can't Find My Way Home," which is the cut to which I keep returning. The shocker is cut No. 12, however, when Hennessy herself - who, I am told, once played music on the street - takes a bold, honest whack at "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

As anyone who watched The Master use it like a 10-pound sledge on Donovan in "Don't Look Back," drain the venom from it and you kill the song, and Hennessy is up to most of it, especially when her voice drops a bit mid-verse. "Your lover, who just walked out the door..."

And, in a midtown bar late on a rainy evening, that pesky Constitution put aside again, Jack McCoy looks down deep between his hands and orders another double.

Poor bastard. He works for Fred Thompson now.


posted by Steven Baum 4/15/2003 10:49:26 AM | link

"UPRISING" IN BASRA
The truth just keeps on popping up on the casualty list, and
not just in first place. Remember the "uprising in Basra" meme?
There was nothing resembling a popular uprising against the Iraqi militiamen who controlled this city during its 13-day siege by British forces. Life continued largely as normal in many neighborhoods, with police directing traffic and residents doing their best to avoid fighting.

Doctors at local hospitals treated scores of civilians wounded by British artillery and U.S. bombs during the siege, despite briefing-room claims of pinpoint accuracy. Many others were killed.

These conclusions about life under siege emerge from a week of interviews in Basra and they differ in many ways from accounts offered by military and other sources before the city's fall. Reports of large numbers of Basra residents being forced to take up arms and militiamen firing from behind human shields were similarly not borne out in the interviews.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/15/2003 09:59:50 AM | link

NATION BUILDING
"Let me tell you what else I'm worried about: I'm worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence. See, our view of the military is for our military to be properly prepared to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place."

G. W. Bush, Nov. 7, 2000

Such were the words uttered by candidate Bush before he was appointed to the presidency. Some claim he's completely reversed himself on this issue, but the evidence shows otherwise. What's he done in Afghanistan after the nation destroying phase? While promising $3.3 billion to rebuild that country in a speech last year, the reality is a bit different.
...
When the U.S. launched its campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida, senior American officials talked about "liberating" Afghanistan and creating a "representative government" that would ensure the country's "peace and stability." But there has been little progress toward these goals. The writ of the new Hamid Karzai government does not extend much beyond the suburbs of Kabul. Despotic warlords remain in control of nearly the entire country, including local police and security forces.

Some observers report that local conditions are reverting to what they were during the period of Taliban rule. Even the American military commander in the country, Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, says he is "frustrated" that the U.S. and its allies have "not made a more bold step" to rebuild Afghanistan.

In fact, the Bush administration seems to have lost interest in rebuilding Afghanistan. The draft foreign aid budget submitted to Congress contained not one penny for reconstruction efforts in the country, leaving it to Congress to introduce a $300 million aid package.

The administration has consistently rejected proposals to deploy the multinational security force beyond the city limits of Kabul, which is the only part of the country it currently patrols, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insists that the roughly 8,500 American forces in Afghanistan will not perform peacekeeping functions or shift their attention away from hunting down pockets of terrorists. Meanwhile, U.S.-supported efforts to train a new national army have been painfully slow: only 1,700 troops had graduated from the program as of March.
...

And it's starting to look like even the nation destroying phase in Afghanistan, i.e. destroying the Taliban - for which the rebuilding rhetoric was trotted out to make the "collateral damages" more palatable to the voters - might become a failure.
THE TALIBAN have re-emerged in force in Afghanistan, with attacks on American bases and the first direct hit on the headquarters of the international peace-keeping forces in Kabul.

Mullah Dadullah, the first senior member of the Taliban to speak publicly since the movement lost power in 2001, said: 'There has been a gap in our activities but our people have now made contact with each other and are waiting for their commanders and elders to give the order to save our country.'

Dadullah, like most of the Taliban's senior commanders, has so far managed to escape American bullets and custody. The BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzai, who interviewed Dadullah in the Pakistani border city of Peshawer, said: 'The Taliban initially wouldn't talk or meet, but after the first anniversary of the fall of their government they have suddenly become very bold, gaining in confidence.'
...
Afghans in Kabul remain sceptical about the promises President Bush is making to Iraqis, the same promises he made to them of democracy, human rights and reconstruction. The international community gave $1 billion in the past year to help rebuild this shattered country. In contrast, the US gives Israel $3bn every year.

Afghans find it difficult to understand where the aid money has gone, except perhaps in Kabul where they can see large numbers of white Land Cruisers, hikes in property prices and new restaurants.

While such news makes one skeptical of similar promises about rebuilding Iraq, one can be sure that at least one part of the nation will be rebuilt, i.e. that which is euphemistically called "Iraq's infrastructure."
Five companies have been invited to bid for contracts to put Iraq's infrastructure back together after a decade of sanctions and the expected US-led war.

Among the five is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil and construction giant run by US Vice President Dick Cheney for five years till 2000.
...

And if the first name mentioned "among the five" isn't a good enough clue as to which part of the "infrastructure" the invaders are talking about when they use the word, a further clue is provided by the choices made as to where to deploy troops to protect what still exists.
...
However, the Americans have put hundreds of troops inside two Iraqi ministries, which remain untouched - and untouchable - because tanks and armoured personnel carriers and Humvee jeeps have been placed inside and outside both institutions.

And which particular ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course - with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq - and the Ministry of Oil.

The archives and files of Iraq's most valuable asset - its oil fields and, even more important, its massive reserves, perhaps the world's largest - are safe and sound, sealed off the from the mobs and looters, and safe to be shared - as Washington almost certainly intends -- with US oil companies.
...

And where they chose to not deploy troops.
...
US troops have sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information.

They did nothing to prevent looters from destroying priceless treasures of Iraq's history in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and in the Museum in the northern city of Mosul, nor from looting three hospitals.
...

Apparently the national library has also been destroyed.
posted by Steven Baum 4/15/2003 09:06:28 AM | link

Monday, April 14, 2003

PRIORITIES
From the
NYTimes:
At the Rashid Hotel, where many foreign journalists visiting Mr. Hussein's Iraq were required to stay, American troops were sent to break up a tile mosaic of the first President Bush on the floor of the lobby. Until the mosaic was destroyed today, the likeness of Mr. Bush was stepped on dozens of times a day.
From the Kansas City Star:
At the Ministry of Oil, Marines had set up a machine gun and barbed wire to prevent further pillaging. A tank sat behind a steel fence. A handwritten sign next to a machine gun nest said "Looters Lane."
From the NYTimes:
The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. But once American troops entered Baghdad in sufficient force to topple Saddam Hussein's government this week, it took only 48 hours for the museum to be destroyed, with at least 170,000 artifacts carried away by looters.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
At other hospitals, the doctors said, patients have been forced at gunpoint from their beds. At Yarmouk hospital, doctors' cars were stolen. Of the 70 ambulances based at al-Karkh - the central ambulance depot for the city - 50 had been hijacked, some as they carried emergency patients, sirens wailing.

posted by Steven Baum 4/14/2003 01:38:27 PM | link

HOW NOT TO EXPLOIT CAPTURED DOCUMENTS
OSS has a couple of pieces on how evidence, or the lack thereof, is being handled in post-invasion Iraq. Here's Part 1:
There are two kinds of unprofessionalism being displayed in Baghdad--on the one hand, the general looting has done more damage that all the military fires--and we note that the Marines in Panama stopped looting cold in its tracks by shooting the first looter; on the other hand, the loss of vital official documents to general fires and mob rampaging is extraordinary. We can only conclude that either the CENTRAL COMMAND is completely oblivious to and ineffective in managing the intelligence collection effort--the true prize of the war--or, this strikes us as more likely--they are subject to politically-dictated rules of engagement deliberately designed to trash the city so the smiling Secretary of Defense can genially say, over and over, "it will take years to piece together any evidence, by which time the 2004 election will be over and we can forget about it...." Side Note: Most of the WMD knowledge workers were exported from Iraq in the 1990's to avoid UN inspections--OSS has a list of 1,500 of them, many of them in Jordan and the United Kingdom, to name just two countries. Shouldn't someone be getting serious about interviewing all of them? It does make us wonder....
and Part II:
No amount of manpower, or electronic equipment, can make up for the absence of sufficient loyal interpreters with the right scientific and political knowledge, or the absence of a collection plan that can be executed as the last shots are fired and before the looters are mistakenly allowed to trash the place--to include burning down entire key ministry buildings and looting entire scientific institutes. It is almost as if the US now realizes it will not be able to prove that weapons of mass destruction existed (hence, however good the outcome, the original invasion is both an unjust war, and a war that is diverting resources from either US domestic shortfalls or other more pressing international peace needs). We have the uneasy sense that the US document exploitation effort has gone the way of the Keystone Cops--ham-fisted reservists, very few (10?) US linguists focused on document exploitation, untested Iraqis eager to make the most of this opportunity--and not a single sign that the US has the brains to a) get the UN inspectors back in--on the contrary, blocking them to avoid the obvious possibility that they will make the US Administration look stupid for failing to find anything) and b) get a global network of government-validated Arabic translators to work within a global web-based "virtual" translation network such as Senator Shelby has been trying to get the US Government to understand it needs.

posted by Steven Baum 4/14/2003 10:22:56 AM | link

RAPECORP'S NO-BID CONTRACT
Kelly Patricia O'Meara asks some questions about why a company with a shady ethical, moral and financial history is getting a no-bid contract to play cop in Iraq.
...
Insight has learned that the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has issued a $22 million contract to DynCorp Aerospace Operations (UK) Ltd., a subsidiary of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), to "re-establish police, justice and prison functions in postconflict Iraq." "The contract," according to one congressional aide who asked not to be identified, "was sole-sourced for one year. But this contract could come to $500 million before it's through."

"There are some strange things about how this contract was issued," the aide continues, "because why would CSC use an offshore subsidiary. Is it so they won't have to pay taxes on this money? Also, why wasn't this contract put up for bid? Why was DynCorp the chosen recipient?"

Indeed, DynCorp has many federal contracts. But sole-sourcing of this contract has raised eyebrows for some at the State Department and in Congress where aides want answers about this deal and others coming down the pike.

And concerning DynCorp's contract, some in Congress are wondering why State would issue a sole-source bid to a company that has had some "recent" problems overseas in similiar roles. For example, last year alone was not only sued but paid large settlements to two former employees who blew the whistle on corporate managers and employees who engaged in sex trafficking in Bosnia?

Recall that former DynCorp employee Ben Johnston described one of his DynCorp colleagues as a 45-year old man who "owned a girl who couldn't have been more than 14 years old." Johnston also recalled the machinations he went through to enlighten his DynCorp superiors: "At first I just told the guys it was wrong, then I went to my supervisors, including John Hirtz, although at the time I didn't realize how deep into it he was."

Johnston finally took his complaints to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division in Bosnia, which investigated his allegations and confiscated a videotape of Johnston's DynCorp supervisor having sex with two girls. Supervisor Hirtz was later fired by DynCorp and, despite his own admission that one of the girls on the tape had said "no" to his sexual advances, no rape charges were ever brought against him.

Kathryn Bolkovac, a former U.N. International Police Force monitor under contract to DynCorp, also brought charges against the corporation for wrongful termination after she blew the whistle on police officers who were participating in sex trafficking. DynCorp settled with Johnston just hours after a London court ruled on Bolkovac's behalf.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/14/2003 10:15:55 AM | link

FORMER SAUDI ADVISOR ORDERED AL-JAZEERA HIT
So why did the Cabal open fire on the Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad (other than the obvious reason that they think they can get away with literally anything these days)?
Wayne Madsen has discovered some more of what the Cabal calls "linkage" to those who support terrorism.
...
The man who ordered his tanks to open fire on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, and Reuters is Major General General Buford "Buff" Blount III.
...
Blount must have had a certain disdain for Al Jazeera, the independent Arab satellite news network that has been the bain of the Saudi Royal Family. Before assuming command of the Third Infantry Division, Blount was the Program Manager for the Saudi National Guard. Unlike the U.S. National Guard, the Saudi Guardsmen are the shock troops for the Saudi royals. They are every much as committed to the Saudi princes as Iraq's Republican Guards were committed to Saddam Hussein. Blount undoubtedly sympathized with his Saudi benefactors when they disparaged Al Jazeera and their Qatari financial backers. There have been a number of heated exchanges between Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani over the coverage of the Saudis by Al Jazeera.

Blount probably did not have to think twice about teaching Al Jazeera a lesson on behalf of his Saudi friends. For at the the same time Blount lorded over the Saudi National Guard, he was also a top military adviser to Abdullah.
...


posted by Steven Baum 4/14/2003 09:47:09 AM | link

Sunday, April 13, 2003

KEEPING GEORGE COMFY
The Robert Dreyfuss article
Humpty Dumpty in Baghdad: How the Pentagon plans to dominate postwar Iraq is notable for some quotes from the VP of the American Enterprise Institute. The AEI, like the rest of the usual neocon spin organs, is going into hyperspin mode to get Ahmed Chalabi appointed as the leader of the new, "democratic" Afghanistan, despite opposition from the State Department and the CIA, who maintain Chalabi will be perceived as a U.S. stooge (which they should know as well as anyone since he and the INC were largely created and maintained via spook dollars). Danielle Pletka, the AEI VP, begs mildly to disagree and judiciously offers:
"The people at the State Department don't know what they are talking about! Who the hell are they? Who gives a good goddamn what they think?"
Pletka then strikes a conciliatory note by magnanimously allowing that State has a "deep bench", with lots of expertise and Arab-speaking professionals. But that isn't enough, she avers. More important needs must be satisfied.
"But they need to remember that the president of the United States needs to be boss. And the simple fact is, the president is comfortable with people who are comfortable with the INC."
And every sane person would concede that anything that would make the president - an old Arab hand with years of experience in international affairs - comfy would also be the optimal path to convincing the Iraqi people that his goal was indeed to create a democracy rather than a corrupt regime following oil company orders, i.e. another Shah of Iran.
posted by Steven Baum 4/13/2003 11:33:03 AM | link


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